Hamilton, Pickering, and Zinni: Time is Ripe for a Deal, Wrong for More Sanctions

On the radar: Caution and advice; Nuclear reductions slowing; Updated P5+1 package; Cutting nuclear spending; Tumbling satellite; Is it an ICBM; Amb. Hill on DPRK; and Budget, stability issues for prompt strike.

December 17, 2012 | Edited by Benjamin Loehrke and Marianne Nari Fisher

Sanctions effectiveness - “The time is ripe for a deal and wrong for more sanctions,” write Lee Hamilton, Thomas Pickering and Anthony Zinni on the costs and benefits of existing sanctions on Iran and the next steps for diplomacy.

--Caution: “This spiderweb of sanctions and objectives, wrapped up in legislative hurdles, could restrict President Barack Obama’s options should he decide to offer incentives for Iran to cooperate at the negotiating table.”

--Advice: ”if a bilateral meeting [with Iran] were arranged, American negotiators would need to select what to offer Iran in exchange for securing U.S. goals, the most important of which must be a serious reduction of, and greater transparency around, Iran’s nuclear program. Included in that offer would surely be some sanctions relief.” Full article at Bloomberg. http://bloom.bg/SFihlu

Reductions - The pace of US and Russian nuclear reductions appear to be slowing, with both countries placing greater emphasis on modernizing or reconstituting capabilities, writes Hans Kristensen in a new report for the Federation of American Scientists.

--The report concludes that the US and Russia will continue to possess excessive nuclear weapons and recommends the two countries make reciprocal reductions in the near term while pursuing further treaty-based agreements. http://bit.ly/ZcWoNt

--Full Report: “Trimming Nuclear Excess: Options for Further Reductions of U.S. and Russian Nuclear Forces” (pdf) http://bit.ly/UM7PFd

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Let’s make a deal - The P5+1 has agreed on a new package of inducements to offer Iran in exchange for cooperation on the nuclear issue. “The package has the same bone structure, but with some slightly different tattoos,” said a senior US official. “We want to see if they’re in a position to make a deal, or if they’re even capable of making a deal.” Joby Warrick has the story for The Washington Post. http://wapo.st/ZcZVeQ

Exiting the stalemate - “The two sides (Iran and world powers) have reached a conclusion that they must exit the current stalemate," says Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi. Although he offered no new initiative on how to achieve this, it signals an openness to a new diplomatic initiative for next month. Yeganeh Torbati has the story at Reuters. http://reut.rs/ZDO9ZG

Reassessing US nuclear strategy - “The rapidly changing world, aging nuclear systems, and pressing budget issues make this the right time to update our nuclear strategy for the 21st century....Spending billions on nuclear forces beyond a credible deterrent diverts resources from the defense capabilities our troops really need.” writes Lt. Gen. Dirk Jameson at Stars and Stripes. http://1.usa.gov/U4tpXg

Tweet - @Nukes_of_hazard: Want to understand the differences between the Senate and House versions of the FY 2013 #NDAA? We’re here to help. http://t.co/2qa8RUrG

Event - “A Conversation with Ellen Tauscher: Missile Defense and Strategic Stability.” December 18th at American Security Project, 12:30–1:30. Moderated by Brig. Gen. Stephen Cheney. RSVP here. http://bit.ly/SRlBb6

Syria - “U.S. plans for possibility that Assad could lose control of chemical arms cache” by Craig Whitlock and Carol Morello for The Washington Post. http://wapo.st/YcbhhC

Tweet - @CFR_org: This Day in History: 12/17/2012 — The US successfully launches the first intercontinental ballistic missile at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Satellite - Reports suggest that North Korea’s satellite is tumbling in orbit. That does not mean it is careening out of control. Instead, the satellite is staying in its defined orbit while rotating around its center mass - which essentially means the onboard camera isn’t all that useful. David Wright at All Things Nuclear explains. http://bit.ly/UMaKxI

North Korean ICBM? - “The success, more or less, of the Unha-3 launch raises important questions. Does North Korea have a functioning ICBM now? Is this an Iranian ICBM? Are we all going to die?” Jeffrey Lewis offers the questions and answers “Maybe, I don’t know, and yes - but not today.”

--Range estimate: If the North developed a small enough warhead and the Unha-3 missile is structurally sound enough to handle the 1,000kg payload, the missile could travel perhaps 8,000-10,000 km. Full post at Foreign Policy. http://atfp.co/UuwnCk

Diplomatic track - The lack of diplomacy progress with North Korea is a result of the North’s perfidy and is not proof that the diplomatic track is a failure, argues Amb. Christopher Hill for Project Syndicate.

--Amb. Hill recommends working with partners and allies to hold open the door for negotiations and enforce toughened sanctions. He also describes missile defenses as “the proverbial bad idea whose time has come” and suggests deploying more of them. http://bit.ly/TrobmX

Explain this - What is a subcritical plutonium experiment? Frank von Hippel at The Bulletin explains what such tests aim to accomplish and why the lack of transparency around them might be cause for concern. All in ≤700 words. http://bit.ly/SFggpA

Prompting WWIII - The Pentagon has long-sought the means to strike any target in the world with a conventional warhead in under an hour. Two unresolved problems could keep policymakers from giving such programs the greenlight: 1) tightening defense budgets could halt the program, which is expected to cost more than a billion dollars for the next five years, and 2) firing such a weapons might accidentally trigger World War III with Russia or China. David Axe at AOL Defense explains. http://aol.it/ZDVEQx

Tweet - @Wellerstein: If I survive a nuclear attack, the first thing I'm going to do is make a cake. http://t.co/coTiAV0o

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